Columbia BME Faculty Visit Santiago, Chile During Spring Break

A nine-person delegation from the Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) at Columbia traveled to Santiago, Chile over spring break to attend the inaugural CU-PUC BME Joint Symposium hosted by the Institute of Biological and Medical Engineering at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (PUC).  The visit was supported by a planning grant from the 2016 President’s Global Innovation Fund for which Drs. Clark Hung and Helen Lu are Co-Principal Investigators.

CU participants included Tal Danino, Assistant Professor of BME, Clark Hung, Professor of BME and Chair of Undergraduate Studies, Elisa Konofagou, Robert and Margaret Hariri Professor of BME and Chair of Graduate Studies, Aaron Kyle, Senior Lecturer of BME, Andrew Laine, Chairman and Percy K. and Vida L.W. Hudson Professor of BME and Professor of Radiology (Physics), Helen Lu, Professor of BME, Barclay Morrison, Vice Dean of Undergraduate Affairs and Professor of BME, Dovina Qu (5th year BME doctoral student), and Robert Stefani (4th year BME doctoral student).

The Institute of Biological and Medical Engineering ( was created in January 2016 and serves as an interdisciplinary academic unit of PUC and simultaneously belongs to the Schools of Engineering, Medicine and Biological Sciences.  The two-day symposium took place on March 13-14 and was held on the first day at the Campus Casa Central where the Schools of Medicine and Biological Sciences are located, and on the second day at Campus San Joaquín where the School of Engineering is located.  The Symposium was co-chaired by Drs. Hung and Lu from Columbia SEAS, as well as Dr. Pablo Irarrázaval, Director of the Institute for Biological and Medical Engineering, and Dr. Loreto Valenzuela, Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemical and Bioprocesses Engineering at PUC.  Attendees included PUC administrators, Institute faculty, students and guests. 

Day 1 sessions were dedicated to research presentations by faculty in the areas of: Biological Engineering, Biomaterials, BioImaging and Biomechanics, as well as student research posters.  A chief goal of the research sessions was to promote development of new bi-institutional collaborations.  Several collaborations between faculty at Columbia and PUC have already been initiated through FFSEAS-PUC research seed grants awarded in December 2015.  Drs. Hung and Lu are Co-PIs of a research seed grant entitled Electrotherapeutics for Musculoskeletal Tissue Repair & Regeneration with Dr. Valenzuela and Dr. Hugo Olguín, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences at PUC.  A second seed grant was awarded to Dr. Danino and his PUC collaborator Daniel Garrido, Assistant Professor of Chemical and Bioprocesses Engineering, for their project Synthetic Biology and Microbiome Engineering Applications for Health.  A third seed grant was awarded to Dr. Laine and Daniel Hurtado, Associate Professor of Structural and Geotechnical Engineering at PUC, for their project Image-based computation for the quantification of cardiac and lung deformation in understanding processes of disease.

Sessions on Day 2 of the symposium were dedicated to a comparison of undergraduate and graduate education at Columbia and PUC, plus a discussion of funding mechanisms to support faculty and student exchanges, as well as future efforts to build institutional ties including joint grant proposals. The Columbia delegation also met with the Dean of Engineering, Juan Carlos De La Llera and Vice Rector of Research for PUC, Pedro Bouchon Aguirre, both of whom expressed enthusiastic support for the Institute as well as efforts for building stronger research interactions with Columbia University. In addition, Gisele Feldman, Program and Communications Officer at the Columbia Global Centers-Santiago described ways by which her office could foster development of these future collaborations.

This symposium was funded by the Columbia President’s Global Innovation Fund, founded by Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger to support faculty to utilize connections with the University’s eight Global Centers. It is anticipated that this successful international symposium has catalyzed both research and education exchange in the frontier discipline of biomedical engineering, laying the foundation for productive and sustained interactions between Columbia and PUC in the years to come.  

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